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RPI Reacts to NHL Cancellation

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, February 17, 2005

TROY - Wednesday was a sad day in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey clubhouse.

Most of the Engineers had held out hope that the National Hockey League would somehow resolve its lockout and that no matter how abbreviated or how fractured the schedule was (it would have been 28 games), the playoffs would still be the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Not this year.

For the first time in major sports-franchised league history Wednesday, a league had its entire season cancelled.

A number of players expressed major disappointment.

"A kick in the behind," freshman left winger Jonathan Ornelas termed the lost season. "Ever since I can remember, that's (the NHL season) what I looked forward to. This year, not being able to watch the Leafs (Toronto Maple Leafs), my favorite team, it's awful. It's a kick in the behind. Hopefully, they can come to some agreement and come back (in October)."

"Obviously, it's a sad day for us in the lockerroom," said junior right winger Kevin Broad, a Humboldt, Sask. native. "We love NHL, we love hockey. We've done this since we were four years old. A lot of guys look up to the pros and it's too bad they couldn't come up with some agreement."

Leading scorer Kirk MacDonald, a Vancouver Canucks fan from Victoria, B.C., said, "it's pretty disappointing. It's kind of stupid on both (player and management) parts. Can't do anything about it, but it would have been nice to have something to watch in the spring time, the playoffs."

"That's life. Hopefully they'll be playing next year," MacDonald added.

Broad explained the players had some rituals as the Capital District weather turned warmer and the playoffs heated up.

"In the spring time, it's a lot of fun, having a little cookout and watching the playoffs out on the deck," he said. "Now we have to find something else to do."

"It's too bad," Broad said. "I love the game and it's going to be tough for the NHL to earn back their fans."

Co-captain Nick Economakos, a Chicago-area native who's attended many Blackhawks games, termed the situation "truly heartbreaking."

"For the last month or so, we've been really closely following it with the deadline approaching. Vic (Pereira), Matt (McMeely) and I were at our house today watching (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman's press conference."

"For the fans, it's terrible, too," Economakos said. "I'm a fan of the game just like everyone who comes to our games. And it adds confusion for guys graduating this year (and wanting to play pro hockey). It trickles down to the minor leagues, the American League, the Eastern League, the UHL and even over to Europe."

Slovakian defenseman Alexander Valentin echoed Economakos.

"I'm disappointed, because it's the best hockey league in the world," he said, "and when you shut down the best league in the world, (many NHL) players are going somewhere else and taking jobs away from our players. Right now, the leagues in Europe are full of North American players and European players have nowhere to go."